Sunday, November 12, 2017

How to Cope When You Feel Lonely and Invisible in Your Marriage

by Sharon Martin 

...The scary thing to me, as a couples therapist who has spent 10+ years geeking out on the neuroscience of love + relationships and learning all I can about what truly makes EPIC relationships, it highlights this one fact: The collective idea of what’s required to have a fulfilling marriage is way, WAY off.
We are bombarded with theatrical images of what marriage + relationships should look, feel, and sound like.  For the sake of argument, I will share typical gender-stereotyped assumptions:
We’re taught that to be a good partner, women should …
  • Be patient and lower their expectations because men aren’t as emotionally evolved as they are.
  • Learn to ask for what they want so their man has the opportunity to step up and meet their needs.
  • Not expect their man to be their everything: spouse, friend, therapist, lover, etc.
  • And NEVER tolerate cheating, lying, or any emotional/physical betrayal if they want to be respected.
 We’re taught that to be a good partner, men should …
  • Be romantic, because that’s what every woman wants.
  • Be stoic, assertive, confident and ready to protect, provide + procreate.
  • Know how to be epic lovers naturally, without education outside of pornography.
  • And NEVER show weakness, vulnerability, or heaven forbid…fear.
Unrealistic expectations leave us feeling lonely and unfulfilled
While I don’t disagree with all of these “shoulds,” I will say that with all these messages, how can we NOT feel lonely and invisible in our relationships now and then?
Over the years I’ve figured out some strategies for coping with loneliness and invisibility that may be helpful to you and your partner as you master the messiness of couplehood, together.
1. Make time to reflect. How are YOU doing? Are you in a funk? Maybe hungry? Have you been more stressed than usual? Have you been experiencing poor sleep? Check in with YOU.  What’s happening in YOUR individual life outside of your relationship? And what is one small way you can take physical, emotional, nutritional, mental or spiritual care of yourself, that doesn’t involve your partner? (ie: go for a run, get a massage, take a day off, sleep in, take a bath, meditate, go dancing, take a painting class, etc.)
2. Be honest. There’s nothing more connecting than getting vulnerable with someone who loves you. Can you tell your partner how you’re feeling, free of criticism or blame? What if you said, “I’m feeling super lonely lately + I miss you. Can we make time for us this weekend? Let’s talk about what it would take to make that happen.” (ie: get a babysitter, reschedule meetings, plan an adventure, sleep in together.) Your partner doesn’t know how you feel or what you need unless you tell him/her.
3. Connect to your tribe. Back in the day we literally had tribes. All around us, at all times, just so we could function. Too often I hear couples who want their partners to be their EVERYTHING: their co-parent, cycling buddy, confidant, lover + primary source of intellectual stimulation. And this leads to disappointment. Reach out to your tribe. Your friends, family, and even therapist feel valued when they can say YES to a request to chat, hang out, or support a struggle. And if you don’t have a tribe, it’s time to create one.
4. Give yourself (and your partner) a break. In relationships, we all suck sometimes. Which means at times you’re not going to get your needs met. And neither will your partner. Knowing that this is the nature of being an imperfect human, with faults, irritations, and limitations in a relationship with another imperfect human enables a little more empathy + kindness. Take a breath, and return to #1. Check in with you.
Yes, it’s awful to feel lonely + invisible in your relationship, but sometimes it’s going to happen and having the tools to cope will greatly reduce the pain associated with your experience. Remember, you’re just two imperfect humans trying your best to not suck at being together. 
by Sharon Martin

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